President Trump seems to be shifting his diplomatic strategies and attitudes towards North Korea, an area that has long been a bit of a political black sheep. He nominated Mr. Mike Pompeo last month to be the secretary of state and planned a meeting between the United States and North Korea in the near future. In fact, he has sent Mr. Pompeo, who is still currently the C.I.A. director, to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-un. This diplomatic decision is interesting as President Trump has entrusted Mr. Pompeo, a central leader in spies, instead of one of his well experienced long time diplomats, to attend this meeting.
His confidence in Mr. Pompeo’s ability was demonstrated in his tweet this morning: “Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed,” and adding that “Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea.”
Mr. Pompeo has become one of Trump’s closest advisers and sending him to this meeting with North Korean leaders signals this trust. However, his unorthodox position is recognized amongst all, as he is not a traditional diplomat but rather the spymaster of this nation. His nomination to Secretary of State is also being suspended as he has faced objections from two Democrats.
In the negotiation, the two powers are attempting to schedule a meeting in the near future between the two leaders, in a list of potential locations, include Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland. These choices were considered due to their distance from both countries, so to provide deterrence of employing potential aircraft. Also, President Trump did not want to appear to be traveling to Mr. Kim’s doorstep and compromise our diplomatic confidence and security.
Though this meeting would be monumental to the relationships between the two powers, it is rather convenient that it has been mostly organized and planned by the intelligence services of the countries instead of their diplomatic forces. In fact, the C.I.A. has been working closely with the North Korean counterpart of the Renaissance General Bureau to facilitate communication.
Many officials have expressed concern and wariness regarding C.I.A.’s lead and role in facilitating these meetings and communications, as traditionally these would be done and organized by the State Department instead.
This decision to use the C.I.A. instead of the state department could be a result of Mr. Trump’s public split with Mr. Rex W. Tillerson, the former secretary of state who was recently fired. Just earlier this fall, Trump has dismissed Tilllerson’s effort to negotiate with the North as futile and “wasting his time trying to negotiating with Little Rocket Man.”
Mr. Pompeo, unlike Tillerson’s stance of pushing for compromises and negotiations, has harsher views and sentiments towards North Korea, which might be the reason why Trump favored him over Tillerson. At the Aspen Security Forum, Mr. Pompeo said that “it would be a great thing to denuclearize the peninsula, to get those weapons off of that, but the thing that is more dangerous about it is the character who holds the control over them today.”
He also emphasized the importance in differentiating between capacity and the person who holds the intent. He has comfortably taken up his role as a new diplomat as he commented that he is there to “make sure that we never get to a place where we have to confront the difficult situation in Korea that this country has been headed for now for a couple of decades.”